Article published in:Meta-informative Centering in Utterances: Between Semantics and Pragmatics
Edited by André Włodarczyk and Hélène Włodarczyk
[Studies in Language Companion Series 143] 2013
► pp. 259–284
Accented and unaccented pronouns in Ancient Greek
A pragmatic choice by the speaker
This chapter is an attempt to apply elements arising from Meta-Informative Centering Theory (Włodarczyk 2004 and Włodarczyk & Włodarczyk 2006) – to the situation in ancient Greek. The accented 1st or 2nd person pronoun may represent – either a centre of attention refering to a topicalised colocutor – or a centre of attention refering to a focalised colocutorThe choice between the accented form and the unaccented form is not insignificant, and is motivated by the meta-informative structure of the utterance. When the speaker has a choice between two forms (in cases where the corpus offers us differentiated and alternating forms), the use of the accented form corresponds in some cases to an extended utterance structure, and therefore to an expressive utterance from the point of view of the opposition between one part referring to “old” information and one part referring to “new” information. In other words, this sets up a formal contrast – morphophonological and syntactical in this particular case. Deciding whether one is dealing with a topic or a focus brings into play numerous criteria which go beyond simple pronoun usage. Choosing between these two possibilities refers us back to meta-informative organisation: it is the speaker who decides on the pragmatic role which a constituent part of an utterance must play in relation to the rest, and in relation to the act of speaking itself, by taking into account the structure and the elements available in the realm of discourse, and it is this which ensures the coherence of what is said. There is therefore a minimum amount of freedom. A centre of attention can only be topicalised or focalised relative to its counterpart in the utterance (commentary and background respectively), but it must also take into account all the relationships between the representations, information and meta-information established and updated in the successive stages of the discourse. We are therefore dealing with the case of a typical figure, well attested in languages in which not a simple utterance, but an extended utterance is chosen. Here the pronoun is the ingredient which allows the utterance to be extended. A large amount of data, of which a small sample is presented here, seems to confirm that the use of the accented personal pronoun in conjunction with the verbal form allows the speaker to construct an extended utterance. The verification of this mechanism requires a meticulous examination of the meta-informative structure of a very large number of examples of usage. There are obviously exceptions, notably – and I have cited some of these – as regards certain formulaic structures or those which are inserted at the level of meta-informative commentary. P1 personal pronouns which engage the speaker as the necessary, privileged reference point, are commonly introduced in such cases. Moreover, it is not enough to examine the meta-informative structure of each usage in order to decide whether we are dealing with topicalisation or focalisation. We must establish more clearly the relationship between the choice apparently made by the speaker and the processes supporting this structuring: certain parameters – purely syntactical (the order of words) and pragmatic (particles) – have been called upon in relation to pronominal marking. Beyond, however, presenting the elements of the complexity of the situation in ancient Greek (elements arising from both the uses of the language and the historical and material conditions affecting access to the corpus), the aim has been to show the advantages of the Meta-Informative Centering Theory in evaluating the use of certain strong pronominal forms. Where it is recognised that these pronouns form part of an extended utterance, it has proved possible and easier to differentiate between focalisation and topicalisation.
Published online: 18 December 2013